The Summit Land Conservancy is not done with the fund raising efforts to save the Osguthorpe Farm. They still need about $2.6 million to complete the purchase at which point they’ll put an open space conservation easement on the Old Ranch Road property. Carolyn Murray has this:
Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director, Cheryl Fox wants the message to get out that the Osguthorpe Farm is not a done deal. The transaction is not finished and she says they are chipping away at the fund raising effort. They made a big down payment in February with lots of fanfare and support from the community.
“But that was just a down payment and everybody knows that is not the end of the road for a transaction. So we are continuing to raise money to save the farmcontinuing to raise money to save the farm on Old Ranch Road. It’s the big, green heart of the basin and you can see it from all over town right now. If you’re on trails in Round Valley, or up on Mid-Mountain or even in Gambel Oak, you can see that big green square. And that’s what we are trying to save.”
The Conservancy has several projects where they are partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal program to assist in saving farm and ranch land.
“And we have two transactions right along the Weber (River). One’s in Wanship and one is further downstream in Henefer. And then we have about an 800 acre ranch up in Chalk Creek that contains a portion of the actual Chalk Creek itself and it’s also Sage Grouse habitat. These programs will pay up to 50% of the easement value. And then we have to bring the match to the table but there’s been funding through the Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation Committtee as well as others and we will be making that application to ESAP in the next month.”
The Bonanza Flat purchase last year, the bond initiative to buy out the Treasure Hill development, and the recent announcement of the Snow Ranches property in Thayne’s Canyon would all seem to be competing for the same open space dollars. Fox says, for property owners, it’s a big decision to make a conservation choice. She says they won’t save most of the open space from development because the financial interests win out.
“You know I think when the markets hot for open space, it’s hot and I think we go for long periods of time when nobody wants to sell and nobody’s ready to do it. Yo know it’s a big decision for land owners who’ve had their property for a long time and to make a conservation choice is an especially difficult decision. Usually a conservation choice means they’re walking away from money. They’re going to sell at a discount one way or another. So when we have the opportunity to save something, we really should pounce on it.”
Fox says the different open space projects have different doners and different community appeal
“We don’t find that it pulls money away. People tend to support the transctions that are closer to home, which makes sense. We don’t do a lot of fundraising in eastern Summit County because we find other sources that will come to the table. We say alright, in 2017, we’ll make an application to this funding source and in the next year it’s another one. You know there is a limited amount of what we can do because in the state of Utah there isn’t a ton of matching funds like in Colorado or in California.”
Buying a conservation easement is a lot cheaper than outright purchases like with Bonanza Flat and the Treasure Hill property. Matching funds are often available for conservation lands so donated money can be leveraged.
“Buying land outright is the most expensive way to do it. When a property is owned already by an investor or a developer, it is the only way to do it. We are fortunate in Park City that the community has said we are going to step up, we’re going to bond. It is fair to all parties. We want that as open space, then let’s step up and buy it. But the Osguthorpe transaction, people have realized, they can really leverage their community dollars.”
The Blue Sky Bash is Saturday, August 25th. It’s Summit Land Conservancy’s biggest, most important fund raiser of the year. Shuttles will run from Park City up to the Ranch. It’s an evening of dinner and dancing and signature cocktails by High West. Tickets can be purchased at wesaveland.org.